Welcome to the wonderful world of parkour! You might be wondering just what you’ve gotten yourself into, and you probably have a few questions. Take some time to learn about the basic principals and fundamental knowledge of parkour before you pull your trainers on and start practicing.
Interested in learning more about the history and background of parkour? Check out this article.
Note: It’s important that beginners know their limits—you aren’t going to start parkour and immediately do backflips from six foot walls. Take it slow. Don’t do any drops from above chest-height during the first four months of your training. Parkour can expose your body to high levels of shock and stress, and without having trained your body to experience these, there is serious risk of permanently damaging your ankles, knees, and hips. This kind of damage, especially overuse injuries to tendons and ligaments, takes a very long time to heal and, in most cases, requires a wealth of conditioning to return to a suitable level of strength (not to mention the pain and the time removed from training). Once you learn the parkour roll, you can begin to consider taking high drops.
Do not do any drops from above chest-height during the first four months of your training.
Now that we’ve covered that baseline rule, on to the basics!
Beginning to Train
So you’re about to go out for your first session. These steps are really important to remember.
- Don’t be shy. If you feel embarrassed trying a move or climbing onto a wall for fear of failure, you have already failed. Top level traceurs try and try and fail and fail, but the willingness to persevere at a movement will ultimately yield success.
- Try everything. Depending on your build, fears, and previous physical activity, parkour will hold a wealth of new challenges for you. To start with, concentrate on low level movements which focus on building good technique to prepare yourself for larger and more difficult training later on. Height can be a huge factor in fear and motivation; find a balance, stay safe, and start low.
- Don’t do anything you feel uncomfortable with. Parkour will require you to push your limits and overcome fears; however, in your initial experience with training, it is particularly hazardous to attempt to overcome very challenging mental obstacles. In the same respect, do not become overconfident and fall foul of attempting techniques for which you are not yet ready.
- Listen to your body. A lot of the movements will be new and your body will respond to that accordingly. You will be sore after you start training. Be careful with your tendons and ligaments, especially when taking impacts. If anything hurts, stop training and reevaluate your practice. Taking a few days off to let a joint or muscle return to 100% is far better than training on it the next day, getting injured, and being out of training altogether for 2 months.
The most difficult part of beginning parkour is finding a place to train. First things first, you’ll want to evaluate where you are. If you are lucky to live in any major city, likelihood is there are suitable training grounds somewhere close to your home—if there is multilevel architecture, you’re probably good to go.
If possible, try to train on public property, as this is the most law-abiding practice. However, training on private property may become necessary and, as long as certain ethics are applied, the property owners and traceurs can usually coexist peacefully. There are a few guidelines to follow when training on private property:
- Never train on somebody’s home. Workplaces, carparks, educational system property, etc., are all fair game, but refrain from practicing on people’s homes (unless they specifically give you permission). In the same regard, churches and places of religious significance can often yield wonderful training areas. If you do choose to train on such a property, be very respectful and do not damage anything.
- In accordance with work hours, training in an area for a long time can be achieved by simply being there at the right time. In areas with high pedestrian traffic or workplaces it’s suggested that you train after 5 p.m. as most buildings will be empty of workers. Weekends will present more opportunities to train, aside from some retail locations. This applies to schools/universities too, so train there when the buildings are empty of students.
- When the time comes and somebody asks you to move on (usually security or someone relevant to the property) simply reply with a friendly “Okay, no problem,” pack your things and move on. Do not hide and do not make yourself appear incriminating. The same rule goes for interactions with the police. Thieves run. If you are not a thief, and believe yourself to not be in the wrong, do not run from the police. You can talk to them and explain parkour, but the majority of the time they just want you gone as soon as possible. Making it easiest for everyone is in your best interest. Don’t get agressive, give attitude or try to mock the authority at a spot you train at. The last thing you want is things escalating and you losing the spot as result.
- Always abide by the rule of no return. If you are asked to move on from a spot, do not return back there on the same day. Don’t let it scare you off completely, though. If you never return to a spot you have been asked to leave, you would run out of training spot very quickly. Just keep it respectful.
When you first start parkour, it is likely that your body won’t be up to pulling yourself onto walls or taking large impacts. In accordance with this, most fledgling traceurs undertake a series of conditioning exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups to develop strength that can later be applied to make their parkour maneuvers easier. Strengths and weaknesses vary from person to person, so it is advisable to consider some form of conditioning to augment your training.
Parkour shoes should be flexible, light, grippy, and have decent shock absorption. Once you learn how to select a good parkour shoe, it is mostly a treasure hunt to find the perfect shoe for your style of parkour. Any shoe that’s heavy, stiff, or has weird grip (i.e., soccer/football shoes) will not be good for parkour. Most practitioners will select a trainer-type shoe with a fairly regular sole design.
A running shoe with a simple sole/grip design (preferably a fairly flat sole without any plastic or large bumps that will tear off after a few weeks’ training) is the recommended shoe type. It is important to be aware that these shoes may not last you more than a few months (depending on your training intensity) before requiring replacement. They will not stay new, they will not look pretty. Don’t spend too much money on high-end brands and instead opt for something you are comfortable with destroying.
Parkour clothing is very nonspecific. Loose fitting T-shirts and upperwear and large jogging bottoms or sweatpants (usually a cotton material to keep cool) are the most suitable clothing for parkour. Any clothing that requires a belt will prove unsuitable for serious movement ability as these garments are designed to stand and walk in only. Thus jeans, cargo pants, kilts, etc., are all unsuitable for parkour. When you are still learning how techniques come into play in respect to your body, you will not want to have restrictive clothing hampering your progress.
When starting parkour, you will find that exposing your hands to the assortment of hard, rough surfaces, such as concrete, brick, metal railings, graveled rooftops, tree bark, etc., will most-likely be painful at first. Though there are issues at the beginning of your training, it is not advised to get into the habit of wearing gloves. First, they dull your hands to the true texture and sensation of objects you touch. This can be particularly unwise when you are still learning how your body operates; removing a sense as important as touch can have a significant impact on your training. Within a few weeks you will find that your skin is tougher and the problem is therefore resolved.
At the end of the day, your experience with parkour is going to be different from anyone else’s. Find what works for you, train, meet new people, and enjoy your freedom of movement. Remember that above all else, safety is the most important part of training. Parkour gives us all the potential to do great things and have many amazing experiences, but without training safely, you risk the chance of injuring yourself.
Develop good habits, train hard, and stay safe!